Stetson Bennett of the Georgia Bulldogs celebrates with the National Championship trophy on January 10.
CNN  — 

The College Football Playoff Board of Managers has unanimously approved expanding the current four-team playoff format to include 12 schools, the board announced Friday.

The new format is set to begin in 2026 but the board has tasked the College Football Management Committee to try to implement the expansion earlier, following the 2024 or 2025 season.

“More teams, more participation and more excitement are good for our fans, alumni, and student-athletes,” Mark Keenum, the President of Mississippi State and the chairman of the College Football Playoff Board of Managers.

“I’m grateful to my colleagues on the board for their thoughtful approach to this issue and for their resolve to get expansion across the goal line and for the extensive work of the Management Committee that made this decision possible.”

The four-team playoff format began during the 2014 college football season following decades of the Bowl Championship Series in which two teams were selected to play in a bowl game designated as the national championship contest.

Keenum continued, “I’m very pleased we were able to get this accomplished and I look forward to expansion taking place. The four-team playoff has been highly popular and successful. I believe this new format will be even more popular and successful.”

The board, a group of 11 university presidents and chancellors, said the field will be the six conference champions ranked highest by the selection committee and the six other highest ranked teams.

The four highest ranked conference champions will receive a bye for the first round.

The eight other teams will play four first-round games – seed No. 12 at No. 5, No. 11 at No. 6, No. 10 at No. 7 and No. 9 at No. 8.

Four quarterfinal games and two playoff semifinal contests would be played as bowls, with the host sites different each year.

The national championship game will be at a neutral site. The scheduled host for the 2025 game capping the 2024 season is Atlanta and the 2025 season title game will be played in Miami.

Starting the new format after the 2023 season had already been ruled out, College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock said on a teleconference.

He said it is likely the date of the national title game in the new format will come later than in the current playoff.

“We have another two rounds of a tournament to play over the current two rounds, so there will be four rounds, of course, and the way we’re looking at it now, it would be hard to squeeze all that in and still finish on the dates that we’re playing on now,” he said.

American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco said officials with his league were extremely pleased with the expansion news.

“We have been staunch proponents of the 12-team playoff model, including the six highest-ranked conference champions, since it was initially proposed by the College Football Playoff Working Group last June, and I am happy to see that the CFP Board of Managers unanimously supported this model,” he said.

Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark tweeted it was a great day and the larger playoff field will increase fan interest and put greater emphasis on the regular season.

Pac-12 officials said the expanded field is the “right thing for our student-athletes and fans.”

Georgia is the defending Division I Football Bowl Subdivision national champion, having entered the playoff as the No. 3 seed after losing its conference championship game.